I recently had the pleasure of visiting Washington, NC to attend the East Carolina Wildfowl Arts Festival www.eastcarolinawildfowlguild.com/. Washington is a charming city with a population of about 10,000 sitting on the bank of the picturesque Pamlico River. The festival is in its sixteenth year and is an extremely popular event. While decoy carving, retriever demonstrations and duck calling are all parts of the festival. I was there to photograph a relatively new event added to the lineup, “Dock Dog Competition.”
Maybe you’ve seen this on ESPN television. Dogs jumping off the end of a ramp into a tank filled with water. The goal is to jump the greatest distance. Or at least that’s what I thought before I got there. Actually, it’s a bit more involved than that. There are really three different events. “Big Air” is indeed based on distance. The second event is called “Extreme Vertical” where, as the name implies, the goal is to reach a maximum height. The third event is the “Timed Retrieve” competition where the winning dog is the one who jumps in the water and retrieves a dummy at the end of the tank in the fastest time. A few quick facts: the ramp is 40’ long by 8’ wide; the tank is 40’ long, 20’ wide and 4 feet deep; it holds 24,000 gallons of water. I’m not going to go on and on about the details of the events and rules and such. For that information click on this Dock Dog link www/dockdogs.com/.
Although I loved the dogs and the fun of the events I was most impressed with the overall atmosphere of the competition. It was relaxed. It was fun. Most of all is was “family friendly”. I do a fair number of events every year–field trials, hunt tests, herding competitions and the like. A lot of them bill themselves as family events. To be honest, some are more about family than others. Now I can’t speak for every Dock Dog Competition, but this one was undoubtedly a family affair. There were young couples with small children, older couples with teenagers and grandparents with grandchildren. All having a great time with their dogs while the dogs were having a great time. Sure, everyone wanted to win but it wasn’t the end of the world if they didn’t. Sometimes it was enough just to get the dog to jump into the water. But they were all having fun, together as a family. It was great to be around those folks with their animals.
If you own a dog and are looking to get involved in something a little different, I suggest you consider a local Dock Dog Club. You don’t have to own a retriever type dog, or a purebred. It seems that all dogs are welcome. Here are links to a couple of local Virginia and a North Carolina Clubs, www.tidewaterdockdogs.com/, www.carolinadockdogs.com/.
If you would like to view more photos from this event, click here, www.bigbarkphotography.smugmug.com/clients/.
One last bit of semi-related conversation. This past month I was photographing an old style plantation quail hunt for a group of bird hunters in Washington, Georgia. The townsfolk there told me that their city was the first in the nation to be named after General George Washington. Well, this month the people of Washington, North Carolina told me the exact same thing. Their city was the first in the nation to be named after the General. How do you suppose they reconcile those differing views?